Weekends in Bangkok are without a doubt one of my favourite parts of living in Asia. I can no longer count how many times I’ve been, but I never, ever get tired of it. There’s always something new to see, and so many old favourites I love to revisit every time (hello, Chatuchak Market!).
Our last stay was during the calm before the red shirt brigade storm, and despite the fact Siam and most of its mega malls were barricaded off, there were still more than enough places to go, things to do and delicious eats to find.
After OD-ing on pad kee mao and larb gai, we decided to ditch our Thai staples in favour of feasting in Soi Arab – a little patch of the Middle East in the seedy part of Sukhumvit. The crowded lane houses eateries ranging from Iranian to Omani to Egyptian, some with outdoor areas where you can indulge in a shisha pipe or two. There are shops selling Moroccan tea sets, exotic perfumed oils and prized (and pricey) agarwood. White robed, bearded men from faraway lands jostle for space on the bustling strip, with barely a Thai or farang (of the western variety) in sight. We ate at Shahrazah, an old school, mixed Middle Eastern restaurant open since 1983 (with the decor to prove it), which the NY Times rates in this piece on the area. Mainstays like succulent lamb, charcoal grilled chicken, hummous, tabouli and pickled vegetables were happily devoured – a delicious diversion from the Bangkok beaten path.
Shahrazah, Sukhumvit Soi 3/1 (between Sois 3 & 5), North Nana
Chatuchak Weekend Market
What would a Bangkok weekend be without getting lost in the maze of stalls forming the world’s largest outdoor market?! Probably a saner one – but I can never get enough of Chatuchak and its mix of tiny, unique boutiques mixed with everything else under the sun. As it was the middle of the hot season it was a short but sweet foray into the labyrinth of shopping temptation this time – I didn’t even buy much – but we did stop at the cutest cafe to refuel on fruitshakes. Despite its bolthole size and roadside locale, the cafe’s tiny wooden crate tables, fresh flowers, chandelier and mirror-backed counter formed a funky little spot of the kind Thai’s create so well.
Chatuchak Weekend Market, @ Mo Chit skytrain stop
TCDC (Thailand Creative Design Centre)
For a dose of design, we stopped at TCDC on the 6th floor of Emporium shopping mall (post obligatory Kinokuniya and Boots stock-ups). Its rotating exhibitions are always worth checking out, and this time was no exception. A design retrospective (‘What is Design’ – on til the end of November) showcasing a ‘best of’ design from around the world was on, with corners devoted to Italy (the Vespa! Prada shoes!), Sweden, Japan and more.
There’s also a cool shop with great notebooks, leathergoods, homewares and books, Kiosk cafe and a design library on the same floor – you have to take your passport to enter the library though (note to self – bring it next time!).
TCDC, Level 6, Emporium, 622 Sukhumvit 24, @ Phrom Phong skytrain stop
Bangkok Art & Culture Centre
Next on our radar was the relatively new Bangkok Art & Culture Centre. Located right near MBK shopping mall, it’s an impressive ode to contemporary art in cooler by the day Bangkok, even if its faux-Guggenheim interior looks veeeery familiar!
We checked out a photography exhibition with images spanning 25 years in the life of Thai magazine, Sarakadee, and a colourful collection of paintings by a young Phuket-based girl (which I loved!). Gallery space aside, there are some really funky and unique cafes on the premises. Next time we’re in the city there’s an ‘Icons of French Design’ exhibition on, so a return trip is imminent!
Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, opp. MBK shopping mall @ National Stadium skytrain stop
Open 10am-9pm, closed Mondays, free admission
Always on the lookout for cafes to crush on, I read about Ohana and just knew I’d love it. Down a soi beside Emporium, it’s in a flashy expat/rich Thai neighbourhood where people live in luxury condos and drive BMWs, so the cafe’s clientele was mostly well heeled Japanese and stylish Thais.
A veritable oasis in a world of Asian eats, Ohana serves up western cafe fare of the most comforting kind, with excellent pastas, a delectable brunch menu, and a molten centre chocolate cake. Travel, design and food books are there for the browsing, and there are cool mid-century style wooden chairs plus an indoor tree. Love!
Ohana Cafe, 50/4 Sukhumvit Soi 24, closest skytrain stop – Phrom Phong